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Friday 3rd April 2020

COVID-19 is an illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called coronavirus. With the number of cases in the UK set to increase, hospitals have begun preparation for a potential increase in patients. In some cases, this means the cancellation of non-emergency operations to reduce the strain on staffing and beds. Chris Young, Heart Valve Voice Chairman and Cardiac Surgeon at St Thomas Hospital said “It is important to understand that while some elective operating may cease there will always be procedures in place to recognise and cater for urgent patients. “

For many heart valve disease patients this is a worrying time. During this crisis, there will be disruptions to appointments and treatment which will no doubt cause anxiety and distress. Now more than ever it is essential that you monitor your symptoms closely and if there is a significant change you should call your GP and ensure they understand the severity of your symptoms.

Here are some answers to some of your frequently asked questions:

If I am waiting for surgery, what should I do?

If you are due to have surgery you should continue to prepare for it unless told otherwise by your clinician.

If your surgery is rescheduled for a later date you should monitor your symptoms closely. If your symptoms get worse and you begin to feel unwell you should report to your GP, call your valve clinic or in severe cases go to A&E.

You should also physically distance and avoid social activity as per government guidelines.

If you have had a cardiac transplantation or are a pregnant woman, with serious cardiac problems, you should quarantine within your home.

If I have recently had surgery, what should I do?

Patients who have recently had a procedure have an increased risk of infection due to cuts and incisions offering greater exposure to germs. The normal risk of infection for heart valve disease patients is low, but in the current climate you should take every extra measure to limit your risk of infection. If you do begin to feel unwell contact your clinician or call 101.

You should also continue with your recommended rehab routine whilst being sure to make every effort to limit your exposure to infection. Contact your valve clinic if you have any concerns.

If you recently had heart valve surgery you should socially isolate as much as possible, as you recover the risk of infection diminishes and you may return to do shopping, but remember that supermarkets are one of the busier places right now.

Should I socially Isolate for 12 weeks?

Many of our patients have asked whether or not they fit the 12-week isolation category. We advise that you should self isolate for 12 weeks if:

1. You fit specific the Government guidelines for self-isolation found here
2. You have had heart valve disease surgery in the last 3 months

3. You are due to have surgery and are experiencing symptoms of breathlessness, fatigue or dizziness.

Am I at higher risk of getting an infection on my valve if it has been repaired or replaced?

There is no evidence to suggest that you are at any greater risk of Coronavirus because due to having a valve replaced. However, the science is new on this virus and so the best thing you can do is to follow the guidelines on socially isolating if you meet the criteria and continue physically distancing.

If I have coronary artery disease, what should I do?

In Italy they saw people with coronary artery disease putting off calling someone about it to the last minute, resulting in needless deaths. If you are having chest pain at home you should call and ambulance. The NHS is still actively treating patients presenting with chest pain as a priority.